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What is Forest bathing?

Updated: Mar 20


Today we're appreciating nature. What is it about a deep breath outdoors that makes us feel so alive? What is it about birds singing in the morning that makes the day feel like it started out okay? What is it about forest bathing that just feels so... good?

We looked it up, and it's really very interesting to see how forest bathing came about. We're going to share what we discovered with you.

In 1867 when Canada became a confederation of provinces, eighty percent of the population lived rurally, and if not in harmony, then at least in close proximity to natural places. 

Now in 2023, the statistics have completely reversed - over eighty percent of our population lives in urban environments, close to jobs, factories, schools and each other.

While science has helped us all live longer today than our ancestors did, the structured and built environment we live in eventually takes its toll on the human condition both mentally and physically.

Nature Deficit Disorder is a term coined by Richard Louv to describe how humans have become disconnected from their natural surroundings. The theory suggests that too much screen time, desk time, and time indoors, is not great for the human mind, body or soul.

Research increasingly supports the idea that if we want to be our healthiest, happiest selves for as long as possible, we need to spend quality time outdoors.

One of the solutions? Forest Bathing.

Keep reading to learn about what forest bathing really is, how it’s done, and why it’s so good for you! 

What is forest bathing?

Forest bathing, also known as Shinrin-yoku, is a Japanese practice that involves immersing oneself in nature to improve mental and physical well-being. 

Dr. Quin Li, a Japanese doctor, established the idea of forest therapy in the 1980s, as part of a public health initiative in Japan to encourage people to spend more time outside.

The practice of connecting with nature for improved mental, emotional, and physical well-being (sometimes also known as nature bathing, nature therapy, green therapy, forest therapy, and ecotherapy) is based on the idea that spending time outside - in a forest, at the park, or where ever - can have a therapeutic effect on the mind and on the body.

While hikes and exercise are also excellent for your physical and mental health, forest bathing is not focused on exercise or hiking. Forest bathing is about slowing down and taking the time to connect with nature through the senses. This may involve taking deep breaths of fresh air, listening to the sounds of birds and insects, feeling the texture of leaves or tree bark, and simply observing the beauty of the natural world around you.

A tree extending up toward the bright blue sky

Why try forest bathing?

Research shows that there are many health benefits to forest bathing, including: 

  • Reduced stress 

  • Improved mood

  • Boosted immune function 

  • Lower both blood pressure

  • Improved heart health

  • Reduced anxiety and stress

  • Reduced pain levels 

  • Boosted creativity 

  • Increased focus 

Not only is forest bathing now practiced in many countries around the world as a form of relaxation and mindfulness, PaRx (pronounced Parks, short for Park Prescription), is Canada’s first national, evidence-based nature prescription program that encourages patients to seek, and doctors to prescribe, time in nature for the relief of health concerns. 

An initiative of the BC Parks Foundation, driven by health-care professionals who want to improve their patients’ health by connecting them to nature, PaRx Healthy By Nature initiative is a simple and enjoyable way to improve your overall well-being.

PaRx has launched its nature prescription program in every province across Canada. By providing Parks Canada Discovery Passes to those most in need, the goal is to reduce the financial barriers people experience when trying to access fee-based park programs. 

Also Read: Add Algonquin Visitor Centre to your forest bathing bucket list!

How do you do forest bathing?

There are a growing number of forest bathing guides to help you learn how to develop your practice, including near here in South Algonquin. Check out the Eco Wisdom Forest Preserve in Maynooth to start! 

You can also find different meditative prompts and guides in book and podcast form such as the Nature Meditations Deck available from Amazon (available to borrow through our Quartermaster Shack), or reflection prompts available from Holstee

Another great tool for more information about wellbeing, happiness, and how to ‘notice nature’ is the Greater Good Science Centre. If you want to try it on your own, try these steps:

  1. Find a natural environment: Look for a forest, park, or other natural area where you can spend some time outdoors.

  2. Disconnect from technology: Turn off your phone and any other electronic devices to fully immerse yourself in the moment.

  3. Slow down: Take your time and move at a slow and relaxed pace. Forest bathing is not about exercise or hiking, but rather about taking the time to be present and connect with nature through your senses.

  4. Engage your senses: Take deep breaths of fresh air, listen to the sounds of birds, insects, leaves rustling and water, feel the texture of leaves or tree bark, and observe the natural beauty around you.

  5. Be mindful: Stay present in the moment and focus on your surroundings. Try to let go of any thoughts or distractions and simply enjoy the moment.

  6. Take your time: Spend at least 20-30 minutes in nature to fully experience the benefits of forest bathing. 

  7. Reflect: After your forest bathing experience, take some time to reflect on how you feel. Notice any changes in your mood, energy levels, or overall well-being.

Remember, forest bathing is not about a race to the end or achieving a specific outcome, but rather about connecting with nature, enjoying the experience, and reflecting on yourself.

Tips for forest bathing

Any kind of contemplative or meditative activity takes practice. It’s really hard for some people to step out of the rush of everyday life and move into that reflective, calm state of mind. Whether you’re a first timer or someone who already knows how to ‘go zen’, here are some tips to help you practice forest bathing:

  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that are appropriate for the weather and terrain.

  • Look for a quiet location where you can fully immerse yourself in nature and avoid distractions.

  • Engage all your senses to fully experience the natural environment. Take deep breaths of fresh air, listen to the sounds of the forest, feel the texture of leaves or tree bark, and observe the natural beauty around you.

  • Turn off your phone and any other electronic devices to fully disconnect from the outside world and immerse yourself in nature.

  • Practice mindfulness: Stay present in the moment and focus on your surroundings. Try to let go of any thoughts or distractions and simply enjoy being in nature.

  • Take your time: Forest bathing is not race. Spend at least 20-30 minutes in nature to fully experience the benefits of forest bathing.

  • Remember to be respectful of the natural environment and leave it as you found it. Avoid disturbing wildlife or damaging plants and trees.

A beautiful creek surrounded by trees

Where to go forest bathing in Canada?

Forest bathing can be practiced anywhere at all - at your local park or your backyard, and you can do it any time of the year.

If you’re looking for a forest-bathing experience away from home, Canada has many beautiful natural areas where you can practice forest bathing. Parks Canada and the provincial park operators (like Ontario Parks) typically offer season passes. Certain special interest groups (like seniors or persons living with disabilities) may receive discounted rates.

  • Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in British Columbia: This park is home to ancient rainforests, sandy beaches, and rocky shorelines, making it a great location for forest bathing.

  • Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario: This park is known for its extensive network of trails that wind through beautiful forests, lakes, and rivers.

  • Mont-Tremblant National Park in Quebec: This park is home to vast forests, clear lakes, and rugged mountains, making it an ideal location for forest bathing.

  • Banff National Park in Alberta: This park is known for its stunning mountain scenery, glaciers, and turquoise lakes, providing a unique forest bathing experience.

  • Fundy National Park in New Brunswick: This park is home to ancient forests, rugged coastlines, and the world's highest tides, making it a great location for forest bathing.

Pro Tip: Try Bubble Tent camping for the chance to experience nature from the comfort of a bubble!

Other activities similar to forest bathing

The point of forest-bathing is to slow down and reflect. If forest-bathing isn’t your thing, you might consider these other activities that can provide similar benefits:

  • Walking on the beach can provide a similar calming effect as forest bathing. The sound of waves and the feel of sand underfoot can be very relaxing.

  • Spending time gardening can be a great way to connect with nature and improve mental well-being. Gardening can also provide physical exercise and a sense of accomplishment.

  • Hiking through natural environments can provide a similar sense of connection to nature as forest bathing. Hiking can also provide physical exercise and an opportunity to explore new areas.

  • Stargazing is a truly out-of-this-world way to feel connected even beyond the outer limits of nature! Get our guide to stargazing in Ontario for tips on when, where and how best to see the stars!

  • Practicing yoga in a natural environment can enhance the calming effects of the practice. Outdoor yoga classes are often offered in parks or other natural settings.

  • Birdwatching can be a peaceful and meditative activity that allows you to connect with nature and observe wildlife.

  • Spotting wildlife in a natural habitat is another great way to experience little moments of joy in your daily life.

The key is to find low-stress activities you enjoy, that allow you to connect with nature and enjoy the calming effects of being outdoors.

Also Read: Wildlife Watching in Algonquin - your guide to animal watching in Algonquin Park!

A boardwalk leading into a serene evergreen forest

Enjoy the outdoors

In a world where screens dominate our attention and concrete jungles define our surroundings, the call of the wild beckons louder than ever before. Forest bathing, with its roots in ancient wisdom and modern science, offers a sanctuary amidst the chaos of urban living.

As we navigate the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it's easy to forget our deep connection to nature – a connection that's vital for our well-being. Forest bathing isn't just a leisurely stroll through the woods; it's a profound journey of self-discovery, a therapeutic embrace of the natural world that nurtures our body, mind, and soul.

Through the simple act of slowing down and immersing ourselves in the sights, sounds, and scents of the forest, we can rediscover the peace and tranquility that lies within us. The benefits are manifold: from reduced stress and anxiety to improved mood and creativity, from boosted immune function to enhanced heart health.

So, why not lace up your shoes, unplug from the digital noise, and step into the embrace of Mother Nature? Whether it's a majestic national park or a serene woodland trail near your home, there's a world of healing waiting to be explored. 

Four Corners Algonquin is a great place to take a deep breath, feel the earth beneath your feet, and let the healing power of nature envelop you. We offer stress-free camping adventures for forest lovers who just want to enjoy nature, without the hassle of the traditional camping experience.

Explore our tents today and immerse yourself in authentic wilderness as you embark upon your forest bathing journey! We can't wait to welcome you.

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